Redesigning a website without losing its SEO
Almost every website gets redesigned at least once within their online presence. It can be due to many reasons, including rebranding of a company, changes in the technology or aesthetics, improve user experience, etc. Although redesigning a website is an exciting process, most web designers seem to only focus on the visual redesign. Unfortunately, this could have a drastic effect on a website’s SEO.
More often than not, we have seen websites that had good ranking with good SEO lose most, or at worst, all of its search traffic after a redesign. Even if the new design looks absolutely amazing, it won’t do much good for the owners.
Of course, a good design is really important for the success of your website. You will be able to make visitors in to actual paying customers only with a logically designed website that provides great user experience. But you also have to keep in mind that search traffic is one of the most important factors that will ultimately decide of its success or failure.
So here are few things that you must consider when remodelling your website to make sure that all your previous SEO efforts don’t go down the drain.
Block search engines from crawling the new site while it is under construction
Most of the time when remodelling a website, the new design is hosted in a sub-domain or a new domain for testing purposes. When doing this, you must remember to restrict search engine bots from crawling it. Overlooking this step will have a catastrophic effect on your rankings, even before you publish the new website. If Google bots crawl your new site with duplicate content, it will panellize you.
You can use the Robots.txt to prevent search engine crawlers from entering your new site.
Do a keyword research
Keywords and key phrases are the bread and butter of any SEO strategy. You can use Google Keyword Planner Tool to start your keyword reasearch.
You can also use Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to find the keywords that your visitors are using to search for your products or services. Then you can check how those keywords are incorporated into your existing website. Most probably, you will find these keywords spread across your website in places such as:
- Title and meta tags
- Headings (h1, h, h3, etc.)
- Navigation and menus
- Image and link “alt” text
If you have used the service of an SEO firm, it is possible that these keywords are placed by them to improve your search rankings. So losing them might have a bad effect on your website. So try to use the same keywords in tags, text and attributes when designing your new website.
Use 301 redirects
As you are changing the URL structure of your website, it is important to have a good redirect strategy in place. Before your start designing your new website, make an inventory of all the pages in your website. Pay special attention to the pages that rank well.
When publishing the new website, make sure that you use 301 redirects to redirect all the previous URLs into the most relevant page of the new website. Try to avoid using temporary 302 redirects. First, create an XML sitemap for the new website. Then you can take the sitemaps of both websites and permanently redirect every page in the old one into a suitable new URL. The easiest way to do this is through the . htaccess file.
This is also the best time to set up your canonicalization strategy to stop search engine bots from indexing duplicate content that would hurt your rankings.
Change the site navigation and URLs
A website redesign is the best time to change the navigation and URL structure of your website to make them more SEO friendly. Don’t just think about the look of the website. Make it an opportunity to analyse and organise the hierarchy of your content and the folder structure as well.
Improve your site speed
Google now considers the site speed or “load time” of a website as one of the ranking considerations. Basically, if a website loads faster, it is considered as better user experience. So Google will reward that website by ranking it higher in their search results. You can use the redesign of your website to clean up the coding and improve your site speed.
Pay attention to your social media engagement
Most of the people forget to consider their social media engagement during a website redesign. Specially, if you are rebranding your business and making new social media representations, you have to make sure that you add the correct links to your new profiles. In case you did not have any social media widgets in your old website redesigning phase is the best time to seamlessly integrate them into your new site.
Responsive is the new black! Each day more and more people are using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to surf the web. Responsive design uses CSS to present different layouts of the same website on different devices, according to their screen sizes. As Google prefers responsive websites to other methods, you can increase your search rankings by going for a responsive design for your new website.
Test, launch and get feedback
After everything is done with your website redesign, test it a couple of times before going live. And after you make sure that everything is fine and launch the new site, get as much feedback from your users, colleagues, friends and practically anyone you can. No matter how well you manage the redesign, there will always be some issues. The best and fastest way to find them is through feedback.
See more about SEO:
- What is SEO and why is important?
- 4 Hour SEO Week: How to achieve more with less
- Making Responsive Websites SEO Friendly